The Leadline Blog

6 Toxic Candidate Experience Tales: Applicants Deserve Better

Discover why the typical candidate experience is failing and how it can be improved for a positive impact on your company's hiring process.

Let’s get right to the point: the typical candidate experience sucks. That statement might sound harsh, but this is not my opinion. Instead, it is the simplest way to paraphrase the current landscape of the ‘looking for work’ community.

You see, Leadline provides recruiting software for HR teams, hiring managers, and recruiters. Most of my day revolves around marketing and advertising to those who could benefit from using our hiring platform (don’t worry, I’m not here to sell you on anything). By observing the pain points and successes of those in the hiring and recruiting space, it doesn’t take long to see there are too many practices, whether intentional or accidental, that have become the norm.

Candidates Aren’t Employees, So Why Care?

The subject matter we’re about to dive into doesn’t spotlight you, me, your company, or my company; it focuses on the people without whom our companies could not function. We can’t have employees if we don’t at first have applicants for our open positions. So, let’s forget the words “staff” and “employee” and solely focus on candidates for a moment.

Impressions Matter—Even Beyond the First

Whether it’s a person, product, organization, or service, think of the last time you had a positive impression. Those magical first impressions can really set a positive tone for interactions that occur after that first impression, right? Your first interaction with them was well received, which positively affected your second impression, which positively affected your third, and so on—every touch point matters.

In reverse, was there a time when you had a critical business-related meeting, or maybe you were meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time? Perhaps you made sure to bring up topics they were interested in. Maybe you made sure you weren’t late. Chances are, you tried your best to make a good impression—you wanted them to have a positive experience. So why, then, don’t we apply those same principles to our candidates?

Monster reports that “77 percent of applicants believe there’s a correlation between how they are treated as job applicants and how they would likely be treated on the job”1. This stat tells us that if your candidate’s experience is negative, then their outlook on your company is likely to be harmful as well.

The Candidate Experience Climate Sucks

Here are a few examples supporting that statement—brace yourself. Let’s look at what actual applicants have to say about their candidate experience.

Taking Way Too Long to Reply

Description: This applicant clearly got tired of looking at the clock and decided to make a meme depicting their candidate experience.

Lesson Learned: The longer it takes for you to get back to your applicants, the more likely they are to lose interest.

The Ghostbusters Lied

Description: You should be afraid of ghosts . . . or at least ghosting.

Lesson Learned: An 84% chance of being ghosted should be embarrassing for anyone hiring. If you don’t have time to get back to your candidates, you probably don’t have time to nurture them as employees.

Be Fast and Know Your Facts

Description: This person took another position while waiting to hear back, only to be mistaken for someone else. Ghosting is a serious problem with 40% of job seekers beig ghosted of a 2nd or 3rd round interview2.

Lesson Learned: Perhaps if they had gotten back to the candidate sooner, this mess could’ve been avoided.

Too Long is Too Long

Description: After six weeks, four interviews, and ten interviewers, you’d probably feel exhausted too.

Lesson Learned: This candidate accepted an offer at a company with a more favorable candidate experience. Lesson learned.

Stop Exaggerating

Description: Someone realized that the phrase “competitive salary” was just fluff.

Lesson Learned: Without thorough market research and competitor analysis, your claims might not be as accurate as you think. Be transparent with your job descriptions.

AI Doesn’t Always Mean Smart

Description: Implementing AI in hiring or candidate screening to filter out unqualified or undesired candidates isn’t exactly new. Few of these so-called ‘smart’ features, however, are actually smart. Someone rejected this candidate because their date of birth happens to coincide with a number that has certain connotations associated with it.

Lesson Learned: Learn your software before you implement it, and more importantly, test it with as much data as you can, no matter how out-of-the-box it may seem. An automated rejection letter for unjustified reasons is no way to treat candidates.

When a Candidate Experience Goes Right

Okay, enough of the candidate experience failures. We know things can be improved, so let’s take a quick look at some of the wins.

A Positive Payoff

Description: Imagine putting so much effort into a positive candidate experience just for the applicant to reject your offer. But what if that applicant appreciated their experience that they rejected your offer with the same level of effort?

Lesson Learned: This applicant had a positive candidate experience and actually took the time to make it known. This scenario should be the norm!

Positively Rejected, Positively

Description: The candidate here had the proper education yet lacked real-world experience, which ultimately resulted in their application being rejected. There was, however, a bright side.

Lesson Learned: Even if you have all the time-saving automation tools at your fingertips, a personalized human touch will never go out of style. Take a minute to respond like a human; you never know if you’ll meet that candidate again for a future open position, and you certainly don’t want to leave them with a negative view of yourself or your employer.

Candidates Are People

I know this, and you know this. Still, somewhere on the journey of hiring deadlines, quarterly goals, and stat sheets, we’ve collectively forgotten that the very people who apply for our open positions are just like us, with their own ambitions, goals, and feelings. For some reason, we’ve lost a bit of humility and, more importantly, humanity.

Job applicants are too often ghosted by HR departments and recruiters. In fact, 77% of job seekers say they’ve been ghosted by prospective employers3, and 67% have been ghosted by prospective employers after a job interview4—these numbers are not okay.

Your positions on a job board or your company’s website might be an applicant’s first impression, but what about their second impression? Their third? All of those interactions, however insignificant each might seem to you, directly impact an applicant’s trust in your organization. With ‘word of mouth’ often being more powerful than a paid ad, building trust with your candidates is just as important as building trust with your company’s prospects and customers.

So, let’s make a more substantial effort to ensure that our candidate experience is one worth bragging about. Oh, and if you have your own candidate experience horror story or an idea to make the candidate experience more favorable, feel free to send it our way. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of these sorts of things to do our part in minimizing hiring practices that negatively affect candidates, and we’d love to hear from you.

P.S. (One More About Candidate Experience)

Let’s be very clear here: recruiters aren’t bad people and HR teams aren’t heartless monsters. Though this post highlights problematic recruiting trends, there are plenty of hiring managers, recruiters, and human resources staff who have candidates’ best interests in mind. They care and they want those job seekers to win.

From our point of view here at Leadline, there just aren’t enough teams that have the right tools. One can possess all of the best recruiting experience and a collection of degrees and certifications, but it’s the lack of sufficient tools that keeps them from doing their best. This is the very reason Leadline exists: to properly equip those in the hiring space with the tech they need—recruiting software that makes talent acquisition simple . . . but that story is for another day.

Impressions Matter

Make your First Impression a Good One

Take your first step to a better candidate experience and download our guide to “7 Proven Steps to Crafting Job Descriptions that Stand Out”. Hey, and if you want to go all the way, request a demo and we’ll show you just how great your candidate experience can be.

Download the Guide